For our purposes, it is instructive to compare the forces that shaped the first generation of migrants with the experience of their descendants. This procedure is not intended to imply the existence of a Chinese wall between the first and subsequent generations, but is employed merely to help historicize the analysis and to indicate the genuine differences produced by distinct life histories and cultural environments.
It will be shown that—notwithstanding the opinion of many white Britons—black people, old and young, do learn, do adapt to their environment and do devise new strategies individual and collective with which to confront the problems they face. As might have been expected, the harsh lessons of British racism have helped to create an identity among Afro-Caribbeans living in Britain commensurate with their concrete situation and historical experience. To bring this and other points into full relief it is necessary to make a brief historical detour. Colonization in the Caribbean, as elsewhere, entailed not only the economic, political and military domination of the indigenous population; it also involved a sometimes overt, but more often surreptitious process of cultural oppression, a major facet of which was the under-mining of any positive self-image that the colonized might have had.
But beneath these jamborees the reality is dire. My respondents shared their experiences of being unsupported in applications for promotion, a lack of mentoring, job insecurity, and an overwhelming sense of being undervalued. The obstacles and challenges that they have encountered in relation to hiring practices and career progression are immense and for the most part appear impossible to overcome. One of my interviewees said:. I see my white colleagues being encouraged, but that never seems to happen to me. There really is no support.
Both my research and my own personal experience have shown that non-white academics are at a real loss without proper mentoring. It is so often the case that we go to other non-white academics externally and informally , who take on mentoring in an unofficial capacity.
This support has often been crucial for us, however, at the same time—as my respondents pointed out—it is utterly disgraceful that they have had to actively seek support in other places as a result of their own institutions failing to provide them with sufficient or appropriate mentoring. The inability to access white hidden rules or white hidden networks was a common experience across my interviews. The academics felt their future prospects, particularly in terms of promotion, were negatively impacted as a consequence.
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One said:. It comes as no surprise then that many of my respondents, despite having all the skills and knowledge, often found themselves continuously blocked from promotion and career advancement opportunities that were frequently afforded to their less established, white peers.
I know people are less experienced than me, who might have a similar role, but are on higher pay and at a higher grade. I look at the rate at which white colleagues are promoted and I often think how have they got that? This is definitely about race. We have to be exceptional just to be ordinary. Discriminatory practices are entrenched within the university environment. My respondents felt that no amount of achievements could surpass whiteness, in other words, meritocracy in the academy is a myth.
If non-white academics are to feel truly valued and supported then a series of structural, intellectual, and ethical obligations, must be implemented in higher education to ensure advancement and inclusion for all. There must be a commitment across the university sector that recognizes racism as a fundamentally structural issue.
This means engaging with strategies that actively promote the inclusion of non-white academics and students including those who are classified as international to ensure that their needs are being addressed appropriately. Those of us from non-white backgrounds working and studying within British universities are quite simply fed up of the racism that we continue to endure on a daily basis. If universities are serious about tackling racism, discrimination, and under-representation they must take the following steps. Senior management must set annual targets to increase BME representation.
To ensure this process is formalized, they must implement a systematic monitoring unit to measure hiring rates of BME staff and student admissions against targets. Regular audits of the data must be made available to all staff and failure to meet quotas should result in penalties.
Race equality needs to be on the agenda in every department across every university in the UK. Management committee meetings must report on these issues as a standing item to demonstrate the work that they are doing to tackle institutional racism.
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Mentoring schemes for new and current BME staff members need be formalized, and they should be partnered with a colleague who is sensitive and fully committed to supporting their needs around career progression and personal development. Promotions committees must take equality issues into special consideration for BME applicants.
An independent ombudsman must be established who can properly investigate racist and other discriminatory practices.
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A commitment to decolonizing the curriculum must be led by university management. University and departmental policies on race equality must be fully implemented and formally reviewed and updated on an annual basis. For too long, non-white academics have been absent from the conversation. Description Stillpoint Spaces London and friends are hosting an afternoon of activities to engage with race and racism in Britain today. This event is FREE.
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